Posts Tagged ‘Community Arts’

Observations during Year One of The ArtParks Experiment

by Tim Brown Executive Director, Tracy Aviary

“Six young children busied themselves moving rocks from one location to another. The kids, probably 4-5 year olds,

Ruby stacking painted rocks

Ruby stacking painted rocks

were stacking rocks for a couple of minutes, and then they started aligning them in patterns for several more minutes. Then they were back to stacking. Meanwhile, their parents huddled together and discussed what the kids “should” be doing in this space. “There’s no instructions” I overheard one say. “What are they suppose to be doing?” I heard another ask.

For twenty minutes the kids played cooperatively among themselves while their parents tried to solve the mystery of what the children “should” be doing. The kids got it, the parents didn’t.

The parents were part of a playgroup that brought their kids to Tracy Aviary for the dual purpose of letting kids play with people their own age while parents were able to have “adult” conversations with each other. The design of this space lured the children in, and then they played and required no parental involvement. The parents should have taken advantage of this opportunity for their “adult” conversation, but they were too hung up on the fact that there weren’t instructions telling people how to use the space, perhaps implying that without instructions, the space wouldn’t be used correctly? The kids got it, the parents didn’t.

Richard Louv dedicates some of his Last Child in the Woods book to nature play areas and how kids once upon a time would go outside and have fun. Louv explains that kids just a generation ago would have fun with things they found in nature, sticks and stones, grasses and mud. Creativity ruled the day, and the only instruction from parents was to come home when they heard the cowbell ringing. But things have changed. That empty lot in the neighborhood has sprouted a house and today kids, if sent outside all, often end up on one of those standardized play sets – swing, slide, rock climbing thing, maybe a suspension bridge.

This space is the Art Park at Tracy Aviary, and it’s been designed as a nature play area. It features dirt, rocks, trees, sticks, and mud. There aren’t instructions on how to use it. All summer long children have gravitated to this space at Tracy Aviary and had a blast. Sometimes parents venture into the space with their kids, more often they stand on the perimeter and watch their children play. Some accept that their kid is having fun and just watch. Other’s get flustered, not knowing if their kid is behaving right, unsure whether it’s alright to move rocks from one spot to another or if sticks can be stacked together to make a lean-to.

The energy behind the art park has been Chris Peterson of the Great West Institute, a local non-profit organization. As a conservation organization dedicated to fostering healthy relationships between humans and nature, Tracy Aviary is a willing partner and we look forward to future experiments in how to design nature play parks to inspire creativity among our kids while enhancing their appreciation for nature.            –October 12, 2009


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dsc_0123Great West Institute recently partnered with Dilworth PTA, Tracy Aviary, UMFA Education and Utrecht Art Supplies for a creative learning field trip at the Aviary. As part of The BirdMask Project, about forty children (ages 3-12) and their parents enjoyed a live bird presentation and the opportunity to make bird masks at the Aviary with peacocks and flamingos looking on. Great West’s Kid’s ArtParks Club. This event marks the beginning of a partnership with the Tracy Aviary to increase the number of children who visit and enjoy the Aviary.
Dilworth Art Exploration Club at Tracy Aviary

Click on photo for image gallery from the Bird Mask Project & Dilworth's Art Exploration Club at Tracy Aviary

From the Dilworth PTA promotion poster:

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I recently held an art camp painting workshop in my backyard studio. It culminated in a neighborhood art show for the young local artists. Nineteen children with pencils, ink, water colors, charcoal, acrylic, spray paint, and more. Here’s the kids trying to learn perspective and foreground.

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